Blinken in Jordan on Mideast tour to shore up Gaza truce
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Jordan on Wednesday on the last leg of a Mideast tour that aims to shore up an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza.
After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi - whom he praised for helping bring an end to the intense violence "relatively quickly" - he flew to Jordan, where half of the 10 million-strong population is of Palestinian origin.
Blinken will meet King Abdullah II, following two-days of regional talks - including with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders - to throw Washington's support behind the truce that ended 11 days of deadly Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.
Following talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Blinken vowed to rebuild US relations with the Palestinians by reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, as well as give millions in aid for the war-battered Gaza Strip.
The announcements signalled a break with US policy under former president Donald Trump, who had shuttered the diplomatic mission for Palestinians in 2019 and slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority.
In the long term, Blinken evoked the "possibility of resuming the effort to achieve a two-state solution, which we continue to believe is the only way to truly assure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, and of course to give the Palestinians the state they're entitled to".
After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he reiterated support for what he described as Israel's “right to defend itself” against rocket attacks by Gaza's Hamas rulers, adding that they must not benefit from the reconstruction aid.
Hamas political chief Yahya Sinwar vowed Wednesday not to take "a single cent" of the aid, insisting that "we have never taken a cent in the past".
On Wednesday, after meeting with Sisi, Blinken later said that both "believe strongly that Palestinians and Israelis deserve equally to live in safety and security", and that "Egypt is vital to these aspirations".
Egypt maintains contact with Hamas, while the United States refuses to talk to the group, describing it as a “terrorist” organization.
Last week, Sisi pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in Gaza.
Egypt was also the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, with Jordan following suit in 1994.
Cairo has sent delegations to both Tel Aviv and Gaza to watch over the implementation of the ceasefire, and has also been coordinating international relief and reconstruction aid for the enclave, which has been under a crippling Israeli siege for nearly 15 years.
Blinken said on Wednesday that the US was in the process of providing more than $360 million in assistance to Palestinians, including $250 million announced in March and April.
On top of that, the administration intended to provide $75 million in aid to the Palestinians, as well as $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza, and nearly $33 million for an emergency humanitarian appeal by the UN.
Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.
Rocket fire from Gaza killed 12 people in Israel, including three foreign workers and a child.
The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session focused on Israel Thursday, to consider launching a broad, international investigation into abuses during the violence.